A SEAL's Seduction cover

Connected Story

 March 2013 

Subject: Lieutenant Commander? Cade Sullivan?
Status: On leave?
Mission: He’s home to take care of some family business.
Obstacle: Eden Gillespie. The girl who always lands in trouble…has landed in his bed!

Lieutenant Commander Cade Sullivan is the job. His commitment to the Navy SEALs is absolute—almost. Worse still, he’s been summoned home, where his family is the town royalty and women vie to be one of Cade’s conquests. One of them in particular….

Ever since they were kids, Cade has been rescuing Eden Gillespie. Now she’s decided she owes him one heck of a thank-you—one that involves a bed, naked bodies and sweet satisfaction. But when their sexy trysts are discovered, Eden becomes a bit of a town sensation—and not in a good way. Can she convince her SEAL to risk one last rescue operation?

SBN-10: 0373797435 | ISBN-13: 978-0373797431

You can purchase A SEAL’s Surrender at these and other fine retailers:

Audible

 

Red Hot Readers can download the entire first chapter here!

 

Chapter One

     I wish for a guy who worships my body, is great at sex and makes me feel like a well-loved Goddess.  Someone who loves me, for me.  Inside and out.  And is really, really good at it.

And if he could be six-foot-two, with sandy blond hair and dreamy green eyes, a body that made nymphomaniacs weep and a smile that melted her panties, that’d be nifty, too.

Eyes scrunched tight, Eden Gillespie let that visual play out for just a second.  Then, with a deep breath, she opened them wide and blew.

The flame went out.  Thankfully.  Because she’d blown so hard, the candle toppled from its perch on the chocolate cupcake.  Good wishes did that, she told herself as she scooped up a fingerful of frosting and grinned at the woman sitting across from her.

“So?  What’d you wish for?”    Bev Lang leaned forward, her wild red curls bouncing like springs around her cheerful face.

“It’s a secret.  If I tell, it won’t come true,” Eden said primly before bursting into laughter.  Yeah.  Like she was gonna lose out on her body-worshipping lover because she put the word out that she was waiting?  Still, she pulled her cupcake closer and, since it was filled with molten chocolate, used a fork to enjoy the next bite.  And fill her mouth so she didn’t blurt anything out.

Because you never knew with wishes.

“I can’t believe you won’t tell me.  How long have we been friends?” Bev asked, putting on her best fake-affront look.  It wasn’t very effective since she still looked like she was waiting for a white apron and her boyfriend, Raggedy Andy.

“Eleven years?” Eden guessed, counting back to the first day of high school.  That’d been the year her dad had died, leaving her mom too broke to keep paying the exorbitant tuition to the private school Eden had always attended.  Secretly terrified, she’d put on a brave face in hopes that the public school kids would accept her more than the private school snobs had.  Bev had been the new girl in town, unaware that Eden wasn’t acceptable because of her zip code.  By the time she’d learned the ins and outs of Ocean Point social politics, she and Eden had been too good of friends for it to matter.

“Then as your best friend since ninth grade, I figure it’s my job to help you with the wish,” Bev decided, leaning back in Eden’s faded and frayed Queen Anne dining chair and digging into her own cupcake.  “I think this should be your year for sex.”

 

“An entire year, dedicated to sex?” she asked with a laugh.  She was sure there was nothing more than dust motes and the faint air of neglect floating through the formal dining room.  But, still, it was all she could do not to look over her head to see if the wish was written there in the candle smoke.

“You should dedicate this year to the pursuit of sex.”  Bev scrunched her nose and pointed out, “I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything, but it might take a little effort on your part.”

When was the last time she’d had sex worth putting in a little effort?  Definitely not with that guy.  Not with any guy, if she were being honest.  Eden swirled her fork in the gooey rich chocolate, using it to make a design on the Meissen plate.  And when better for brutal self-truths that a girl’s twenty-fifth birthday.

The last guy she’d had sex with had broken his foot trying to play he-man and do it against a tree.  Instead of accepting that he just wasn’t he-man material, he’d blamed her.

No wonder her love life sucked.  Look at the kind of guys she had to work with.

“So I know why I should want good sex,” Eden said, standing to clear their plates.  “Why is my personal life on your radar?”

She didn’t have to look to know Bev was following her to the kitchen.  The rat-a-tat-tat of her high heels was a giveaway.

“Janie was in the shop yesterday,” Bev said, sounding like her cupcake had been bitter lemon instead of rich chocolate.  Bev owned Stylin’, the best salon in town.  And despite her penchant for wearing her own hair in ragdoll fashion, she worked pure magic on everyone else.  Enough magic to lure in the well-paying Oceanfront set.

“Ah.”  Eden didn’t need to hear any more than that.  She wasn’t sure of the what, when and where, but she was sure she was the who the chatter had revolved around.  That’s how Janie and company worked.  They wouldn’t check in with Eden directly, they’d go to her best friend and mine for gossip-nuggets.

“Don’t let her get to you.”  She set the plates next to the sink.

“I’m just so tired of them talking about you,” Bev grumbled, throwing the cupcake wrappers in the trash so hard that they bounced right back out.  “They are all so snooty and rude, with their perfect lives bought and paid for by someone else.”

“You think they have perfect sex, bought and paid for too?” Eden asked, keeping her tone, and her expression, serious.  She lost it, though, when Bev glared.  Laughing, she asked, “What?  You think I should get upset because they are talking about, let me guess…  My love life, or lack thereof?”

“Well it’s not like they are saying nice things.”

Eden shrugged, so used to pretending she didn’t care that it pretty much came naturally to her now.

As if realizing she’d brought the bummer cloud to dim the party atmosphere, Bev clapped her hands together and exclaimed, “Presents!  I’ll be right back.  I’m going to get your gift from the car.”

Eden kept a cheery smile of anticipation on her face until the wooden screen door clapped shut behind her friend, then let it drop.  Then she sighed, tossing the forks into the dishwasher and squirting liquid soap on a sponge.

Hot, happy sex.

Her chances of finding that were about as small and slender as the half-melted candle she’d just blown out.

What a waste of a wish.

She should have used it on her career.

Only out of veterinary school six months, she still had student loans and now a mortgage on this house.  It’d taken every bit of daughterly influence she had to convince her mother to let her buy it instead of putting it on the market.  It’d also taken her entire savings account and the tiny trust fund left to her by her grandfather, but Eden loved her home and her heritage too much to see it offed to the highest bidder.  And then there was the fact that there was enough land and outbuildings for her to set up her veterinary clinic.

Sighing, she carefully dried the china and walked over to place it in the ornate breakfront with the reverence her great-great-great gramma’s plates deserved.  Like most of the furnishings in her childhood home, the glass-fronted hutch was an antique.  Rattling around here alone all the time, Eden sometimes felt like the house was just waiting for her to join the ranks of antiques so she’d better fit in.

It wasn’t that she minded being alone, really.  But like sex, sometimes a girl got tired of going it solo.

“The postman drove by when I was at my car,” Bev said, returning to the room with a huge polka-dot box with a ribbon as curly as her hair.  “I brought your mail in.  Look, I think there are a couple of birthday cards here.”

More because Bev was looking worried again than because of any curiosity to see who’d remembered her birthday, Eden took the stack of mail.  Before she could get to the tell-tale bright envelopes, she noticed one from the bank.  It was addressed to both her and her mother.

“What’s up with this,” she muttered, tossing the others on the counter and sliding her fingernail under the flap.  She and her mother had no bank business together.  And since Eleanor was tooling around the country following the craft fairs in a new RV, Eden didn’t hesitate to open the missive.

“What the…”  She had to wait for the room to stop spinning and the buzzing to clear from her ears before she could read the letter again.

Nope.  The words hadn’t changed.

“I’m going to kill her,” she decided through gritted teeth.

“What?  Who?  Where’s a shovel so I can help you bury the body.”

“My mother took out a loan against the house.”  Fury pounded at her temples like a gorilla with a sledgehammer.  Knowing the words wouldn’t change, no matter how many times she glared at them, Eden crumpled the letter in her fist and threw it against the wall.

“I thought the house was yours,” Bev said quietly.  “I thought you bought it from her.”

“My cousin Arnie is a lawyer.  He wrote up a legal document that said the house was mine once I took over the mortgage, and then added my name to the title.  He said we shouldn’t transfer it out of my mom’s name because I was still carrying student loans and starting a new business, so the bank wouldn’t approve a loan.”

What he hadn’t done was check for loans against the property when he’d changed the title.

“She didn’t warn you?  Talk it over with you before taking out the loan?  Give you a heads up that you were about to get hit with a big ole bill?  Nothing?”

“Warn me?  She didn’t even call to wish me a happy birthday,” Eden said, her laugh only a little bitter, wishing she could be as shocked as Bev.  “To her credit, she probably forgot.”

“About the loan?” Bev scoffed, her freckled face furrowed in fury.

“About my birthday.”

And how sad was it that the fact that it was her mother forgetting her birthday that hurt more than a bill for thirty grand.  Eden reached for the phone, then curled her fingers into her palm.  As much as she wanted an explanation, an assurance that the payment-in-full had been mailed to the bank, she knew better.

Eleanor Gillespie didn’t worry about little things like money or responsibilities.  Or even her daughter.  She was too flakey to let the mundane rain on her creative lifestyle.

Glancing at the bank’s letter, Eden cringed.  Flake or not, her mother had made a mess of things.  And, as usual, Eden was the one who had to figure out how to clean it up.  Because if she didn’t figure something out, she could lose the house.  The property that’d been in her family for five generations.  Her home, her place of business.

Everything.

As if reading her mind, Bev asked, “What are you going to do?”

Eden blinked fast to clear the dampness from her eyes.  What she wasn’t going to do was cry, dammit.

“I guess I’m going to find a bunch of money.”  Where on earth was she going to do that?  And why had her mother, in her infinite wisdom, taken out a three-month debt instead of a loan with a payment plan?  Eden rubbed her fingers against the sudden pounding in her temple, then walked over to retrieve the letter.  She’d have to study it, contact the bank, so she understood all the details.

“You’re really going to take on your mother’s loan?”

“It’s against my property.  I have to take it on.  At least, until she turns up again and deals with this.  But she’s tooling across the country from craft fair to art show right now.  I have no idea when I’ll hear from her.  Or when she’ll come home and clean up her mess.”

“How are you going to get the money?”

Hell if she knew.

Every penny she earned was earmarked.  Despite the fancy address, she was living a ramen noodle lifestyle here.

There was nothing of value to sell.  Oh, sure, she still had her great grandma’s china and there were a few antiques left floating around.  But they were all she had left of her family.  Well, those and her mother.  And right now she was pretty sure the china was worth more.

Eden took a deep breath.  There had to be a way through this.  She just had to think.  Think, Eden.

Her eyes fell on a square envelope embossed with ivy and roses.  The monthly garden club meeting.  She wrinkled her nose, wondering if they resented having to send her the invitations as much as she hated getting them.

Because she was the last person the socially upstanding ladies wanted invading their exclusive get-togethers.  But the Gillespie name guaranteed her an invitation.

“The Oceanfront set,” she exclaimed, snapping her fingers.

“What was the question again?” Bev asked with a confused look.

“I’ll hit up the country club ladies, the Oceanfront set.”

“For loans?”

Eden cringed.  Handouts?  Oh hell, no.  She was nobody’s charity case.

“For clients.  They are all big on their designer pets.  I just have to get two, maybe three of them to start using my veterinary services, to let me board their babies here, provide any sort of pet care.”

“How much are you going to charge?” Bev asked, her eyes huge with a horrified sort of glee.

Eden laughed.

“Just enough that they consider the services exclusive.  All it will take is a few of them using me as their vet, a little behind the scenes hype and pretty soon more will follow.  I might not be able to pay off the entire loan at once, but if I can get enough of a down payment and show the bank that I have the potential income, I’ll bet I can swing a deal.”

Maybe.

And maybe was all she needed.

Eden reached for the phone again, quickly dialing the head of the Garden Club.

Five minutes and three grimaces later, she hung up with a triumphant smile.

“Why’d you RSVP for two?” Bev asked, pulling her head out of the pantry to give Eden a suspicious look.

“Because you’re going with me.”

“Oh no,” Bev declared, emptying an armload of bins and jars onto the chipped tile counter.  “I’m not a member.  They won’t let me in.”

“You’re my guest.”

“They aren’t going to want me there,” Bev predicted.

“They don’t want me there, either,” Eden shrugged.  “They’ll just have to deal with us.  Because I need you with me.”

“For moral support?”

Eden wasn’t sure how much moral support would help when faced with forcing a tight-knit group of women to accept an outsider at one of their chichi meetings.  But she did need someone to play off of.  Someone who could talk up her veterinary skills and give her the verbal setups she’d need to spike home her point if this plan was going to work.

“What are you doing?” Eden asked, eying the eggs and butter that had just joined the flour, brown sugar and peanut butter.

“This is clearly a cookie situation.  So I’m making cookies,” Bev decided, digging a bag of chocolate morsels out of the freezer.

Before Eden could decide if the two of them eating what, if the butter and eggs were anything to go by, would be a double batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies was a good idea, there was a rumbling outside.

Company?  Or another birthday surprise?  Maybe her mother had found a way to send the plague by UPS.

Or, Eden squinted in a shiny new Jaguar.

“Hey, cool.  It’s like the birthday fairy heard your wish,” Bev joked, joining Eden at the door to see who was chugging up the weather-pitted driveway.

Recognizing the car now, Eden frowned.

Even though they were neighbors, Robert Sullivan never visited.

So the only way the birthday fairy was playing into this particular arrival was if his son, Cade, had hijacked the jag and was driving up to make all of Eden’s fantasies come true.

Cade Sullivan.

Tall, blond and gorgeous, with the hypnotic green eyes and more charm than a proud momma’s bracelet.

The sexiest guy to ever set foot in Ocean Point.

High school quarterback.  Class president.  Navy SEAL.

Her hero.

She knew most people in town who didn’t have membership with the exclusive Ocean Point Country Club—and even a few who did—saw Robert Sullivan as a major asshole.  But when she looked at him, she saw an older version of Cade.  The guy who always rescued her from mishaps, who’d never made a tag-a-long girl five years his junior feel stupid.

The guy she’d had a crush on since she was seven.  The one she’d spied on at the small, private lake that bordered their two properties.  The man who’d formed her every basis for what spelled sexy in a guy.

Eden sighed.

Then Robert’s car swerved.

Eden gasped.

The Jaguar made a beeline for the faded brick arch that welcomed people to the Gillespie house.

Eden hit the door running.  Just as she made it to the bottom of the steps, the car slid into the unyielding bricks with a sick crunch of crumpling metal.

“What’s happened?  Who is it?” Bev called as Eden sprinted across the lawn, skidding on the gravel driveway in her hurry to reach the car.

“Call an ambulance.  Tell them to hurry, as fast as they can.”  Eden stared at older, colder version of her favorite fantasy, her breath tight in her chest.  She checked the pulse at his throat to be sure, then gave a shaky sigh.  “Robert’s hurt.  Really bad.”

#

     It was like watching a bunch of virgins tour a whorehouse.  Lieutenant Commander Cade Sullivan shook his head at the current crew of Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL trainees slogging through the wet sand, each carrying a dripping log over his shoulder.

“Were we ever that green?” he wondered aloud.

“You weren’t,” Captain Seth Borden said with a laugh, clapping Cade on the back.  “You were one of the most focused BUDS we’ve seen come through here.  I’ve been a MTS a long time, but even I can’t always tell which guys will make it through Hell Week.  Sometimes none do.  But when you came through, every instructor knew you’d graduate.”

Borden was a Master Training Specialist.  One of the top at Coronado’s Navel Special Warfare Center, as a matter of fact.  He was a machine.  A guy who’d dedicated thirty years to the Navy and scared the hell out of most people.

Cade considered him a crusty old bastard who drank like the sailor he was, cussed with flare and played a wicked hand of poker.  And when they weren’t in uniform or on base, he was Cade’s favorite uncle.

“Why’d you haul me down here?” Cade asked, grimacing when one guy tripped over his own feet, taking three others down with him and sending his log flying ahead into the back of two more.  “Wanted to make sure I appreciate how good my team is?”

He grinned when three wanna-be SEALs sidestepped the downfall, just kept on going.  Those guys, they had what it took.

“You need a reminder?”

“Nope.”  Cade’s smile faded.  He knew damned well that he served with some of the best SEALs in existence.  Guys who gave their all, like his buddy Phil Hawkins, who’d given it right to the end.  A familiar band of grief tightened in Cade’s chest, as it did whenever he thought of the loss.  The Three Amigos, Phil, Cade and Blake Landon had gone through BUDS together, had served in the same platoon, on countless missions together.  They embraced everything that SEAL stood for.  Brotherhood.  Dedication.  Excellence.

And now the Three Amigos were two.

“C’mon in.  We’ll have a cup of coffee.”

Grateful for any distraction from the gnawing emptiness that had started to overshadow his SEAL career, Cade followed the Captain to his office.  He shook his head when Borden held up the coffee pot.  While on tour, he might have to stick with field rations and rehydrated faux-food, the rest of the time he opted for quality.  From the looks of that pot, the sludge in the carafe was barely digestible.

“So?” he prodded, knowing he didn’t need to repeat the question.

“You’re coming up on your PRD.”

Cade wasn’t surprised at the Captain’s statement.  Borden figured he’d recruited Cade to the SEALs.  Since being a SEAL had been Cade’s goal from the time he was twelve, he didn’t think recruiting was the right term, but he let the old man have his illusions.

“Not for six months,” Cade said, referring to his Projected Rotation Date when he’d be up for reassignment.  He’d been based here in California for eight years.  Chances of being sent to Virginia or Hawaii were slim, but possible.  Maybe a transfer was a good thing, though.  A chance to start fresh, to get away from the constant reminders of his lost friend.  “Why?”

“I want you to consider taking your MTS cert.”

Cade laughed and shook his head.  “Why the hell would I want to be certified as a trainer?”

“You’re a freefall jumpmaster, took gold in the Excellence in Pistol Shot, and were awarded the Silver Star.  You aced out of Sniper School.  And then there’s the advanced counter-terrorism technology training.  You’re the elite.  You got the goods, boy.”

Cade rocked back on the heels of his jumpboots and grinned.  Yeah.  That was a pretty sweet list of qualifications.  He’d worked damned hard, and loved every second of getting all of them.  But all he said was, “So?”

“So we could use you here.  The certification, a year as a trainer, it’d bump your pay grade and move you a lot closer to those Captain’s bars.”

Cade frowned.  He didn’t care about the pay or rank.  But he did care about losing his edge, about this depthless funk he’d sunk into dragging his team down, too.  He glanced out the window at the grown men falling all over themselves in the surf, struggling like toddlers to reach their boats.  Those guys wanted to excel.  To be the best.  And he could be damned good at helping them get there.  But to do that, he’d have to quit being a SEAL.  And he didn’t quit.  Not one damned thing.

So he shook his head.  “Nah.  I’m good.”

“Don’t ya think it’d be mighty impressive?” the Captain asked as he and his steaming cup of coffee settled behind the desk.

“Borden, I’m already a SEAL.  There’s not a damned thing more impressive than that.”

“Sure, maybe to the ladies.”

“Who else matters?”  Cade laughed.

Hell, it was rare that he ever even had to pull out the SEAL card to impress a woman.  He looked good enough that the women tended to fall all over him.  Always had.  That wasn’t ego, he credited genetics for his sandy blond hair, sharp green eyes and chiseled features and the Navy for his ripped body.

And he had nothing to prove to anyone else.

“You want to climb higher than Lieutenant Commander?”

Cade shrugged again.  He wasn’t about rank or money.  Neither one had the thrill, the excitement, or the rock-solid satisfaction as being a part of Special Ops.  At least, up until last fall, when Hawkins had taken a piece of shrapnel to the head while under Cade’s command.

“Bet there are some people who’d like to see you move up the ranks,” Seth said, staring into his cup like it held some fascinating secret.  Or, more likely, because he didn’t want his expression to give away his trump card.

“I don’t live my life for other people,” Cade countered with a grin, dropping to a chair and getting ready to play.  Mind games were almost as fun to win as war games.

“What about Robert?”

Cade’s smile fell away.

“I don’t live my life for my old man.”

“Not saying you should.  But I’ll bet it’d go a long way toward keeping him off your back for awhile.”

“You mean it’ll keep him off your back?”

Robert Sullivan had married Seth’s little sister Laura thirty-five years ago and had probably scored an average of a few dozen words a year to his brother-in-law since the reception.  Less after they’d lost her to cancer five summers ago.  But he somehow managed to find a few here and there to touch base with Seth for a little second-hand haranguing for his one and only child.

“Robert doesn’t bother me,” Cade’s uncle dismissed with a jerk of one shoulder.  As if his ex-in-law was that easy to flick off.

Cade wished that were so.  Both that the old man was someone to be flicked off, and that he wasn’t a bother.  But he knew better.  Robert Sullivan, of Sullivan Enterprises, specialized in tenacity, had the personality of a bulldog and the charm of a cactus.  He’d been furious when Cade had joined the Navy instead of taking his rightful place at the helm of the family’s financial consulting firm.

“If he doesn’t bother you, then why are you using him as bait?” Cade challenged.

“Because you’re a damned good solider.  A fine SEAL and a strong leader.  I don’t want to see you derailed.  You’re on edge lately.  Like you’re teetering on indecision.  That’s the kind of thing that some people,” meaning Cade’s father, “look for, try to take advantage of in order to play things their way.  A break would let you figure it all out, before you’re played.”

His pleasant expression didn’t change, nor did his body shift even an inch as a painful sort of tension spiked through Cade’s system.

“No offense, Captain,” Cade said with a grin as he got to his feet.  “But I don’t give a good damn what my father does.  And nobody plays me.  Not even the old man.”

To Robert Sullivan, Cade was a pawn.  A useful tool.  He’d expected his only child to follow in his footsteps, to learn the ins and outs of finance and take over the vast Sullivan holdings if and when Robert deemed it time.

Cade had never been interested in any of that.  Not even as a kid.  So he’d never let the old man in on his plans.  He’d enlisted the day he’d turned eighteen, three months before he’d finished high school.  Already knowing the value of good strategy, he’d waited to tell his father until the morning after graduation.  And had left for basic training right after the ensuing big ugly fight.

It wasn’t the fact that he would’ve had to ether carry some bullshit business major that he had no interest in if his father covered tuition that had made him decide not to go to college.

He simply hadn’t wanted to wait to get started in the Navy.

And then, like now, he hadn’t given a damn about rank.

He just wanted to be a SEAL.

He was born for the military.

He just had to remember that and get through this damned, what did his squadmate and amigo, Blake’s fiancé, Alexia, call it?  Journey of grief.  Stupid thing to call being pissed off over losing his buddy.  And definitely not something he wanted to talk about.  Not to Blake, not to Alexia.  And definitely not to his uncle.

Before he could make excuses to leave, Cade’s cellphone rang.

“Speak of the devil,” he muttered, noting the number on the screen.

“The old man?”

“Close enough, it’s my grandmother.”

The only thing that kept Cade from turning his back on his family, and all the drama and crap that went along with it, was his grandmother.  He would do anything, even play nice at holidays, to make Catherine Sullivan happy.

With that in mind, he gestured his apology to Borden and took the call.  Five minutes later, he wished he hadn’t.

“Robert had a heart attack,” Cade murmured as he slid the phone into his pocket.

“Is he okay?” Seth asked, looking up from the paperwork he’d been pretending to do to give his nephew the semblance of privacy.

“He’s in intensive care.  They don’t know if he’s going to make it.”

Seth frowned, coming around the desk.  “Are you okay?”

Cade shrugged.  He didn’t know what he was.  Numb.  Despite a lousy, contentious relationship, shouldn’t he care that his father might die?  That he was hanging by a thread?

Cade’s mind couldn’t quite take it in.

He was a SEAL, specially trained in multiple ways to cause death.  He’d served during wartime.  He’d watched men die.  He’d held one of his best friends as life drained away.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t familiar with the concept.

But his father and death?  He’d always figured the old man was too stubborn, too obnoxious, too uncompromising to allow it to happen on anything but his own approved timetable.

“You need anything?”

Cade gave Seth a blank look, then shook his head.  “Gotta see my CO, get leave.  Grandma wants me home.”

Seth’s wince pretty much summed up Cade’s lifelong feelings about returning to the Sullivan Estate.

Cade grimaced in return.  “Looks like I’m getting that break after all.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *